Older and wiser

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am

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As the longest established school in Hong Kong, St Paul's College has experienced many milestones over the past 160 years. But one principle has remained unchanged - the importance the college attaches to providing students with a comprehensive education, designed to promote all-round development.

Founded in 1851, the Anglican church-based college was one of Hong Kong's earliest teaching institutions to offer a liberal education in the English and Chinese languages for local boys. These days, it offers a curriculum that trains students to communicate effectively in English, Cantonese and Putonghua. It also seeks to arouse interest in life-long learning, and an appreciation of the arts and sports.

Today, the college has about 1,200 secondary pupils and nearly 600 in the primary section.

Dr John Kennard, the college principal, says the school provides a broad range of subjects, taught by veteran teachers. Last year, nearly all of its Form Five students obtained a Grade E or above in at least five subjects in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. At the same time, all of its Form 7 students gained admission to tertiary institutions.

'While the school encourages academic excellence, equally important is the opportunity to develop leadership skills at all levels, from being a prefect, peer mentor, or a buddy to other boys,' Kennard says. 'It is important our boys have the well-rounded education skills and the leadership capabilities they will need in the future,' he adds.

Kennard says St Paul's also works on the continuous professional development of its faculty. Last year, teachers attended some 270 workshops, seminars and courses organised by the Education Bureau and top institutions. About 45 per cent of its faculty have doctoral or master degrees, while 54 per cent hold a bachelor's degree.

St Paul's has also set up twin-school links with the high schools affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University and to Xi'an Jiao Tong University. Activities such as a choir tour to London and a celebration dinner are among this year's highlights.

Through the International Boys' Schools Coalition (IBSC), St Paul's has built links with about 240 top schools globally. 'Through exchange activities and mutual visits, our boys widen their world knowledge and experiences,' says Kennard.

Education and extra-curricular activities also align closely with the college's goals to promote respect for the views and opinions of others, harmony in the family and the community, and participation in community affairs. 'One area where St Paul's has been successful over the years is producing boys with character, who are not afraid to voice an opinion and who are good at giving back to the community,' says Kennard.

One of the oldest bodies within St Paul's is the Students Association, which operates over 50 clubs. To encourage leadership and develop teamwork, activities are planned and organised by students themselves with a teacher acting as adviser. The range of activities includes Science Week, visits to homes for the elderly, publication of a college newspaper, a Joint School Leadership Training Camp and inter-house ball games.

'Belonging to the Students Association helps our boys acquire the essential communication and interpersonal skills that are essential for personal growth during and after their school life,' Kennard says.

As a school that takes pride in equipping students to take responsibility and give back to the community, St Paul's students have helped to shape Hong Kong. The 'Old Boys Union' has been in existence since the 1920s. Established in October 1994, the St Paul's College Parent Teacher Association (PTA) also provides a link between school and home, and among parents.

St Paul's alumni represent a who's who of Hong Kong society. They include Jasper Tsang, president of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, Lau Siu-kai, head of the Central Policy Unit, and Joseph Yam, the first chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

As a way of giving back to the school and sharing their experience and knowledge with students, a mentorship scheme has been organised by the St Paul's College Alumni Association (SPCAA). Since 2005, its members have mentored more than 70 Form 6 students a year.

Other outstanding alumni include Peter Kwong, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, film director Stephen Siu, singer and actor Raymond Lam Fung, Hong Kong Observatory director Shun Chi-ming, international 'starchitect' IM Pei and Victor Chang, a cardiac surgeon and transplant pioneer.